- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Just more than five years ago, Doug Teague, a sanitation worker for the city of Fort Smith, had an accident that changed his life.

Teague, 49, and a native of Fort Smith, was working near a rear-loader truck when the driver backed up to get closer to the can. The massive truck clipped him, knocking him over.

“It was just a shock. It felt like something was tugging on my leg and pulling me down to the ground,” he told the Times Record (https://bit.ly/1vLlpeD ). “I realized what was happening, and I was trying to pull out from under it to keep it from running over the rest of my body. It just flattened my foot.”

The driver heard Teague’s screams and stopped. Somehow, Teague got up, made his way to the truck and got in. He told the driver he needed to go to the hospital.

When Teague got to Sparks Regional Medical Center, he had to wait 12 hours before he could go into surgery because he had eaten not long before going to the hospital.

Teague’s right foot was flattened. Not only that, but he had a bone poking through his leg, which was broken.

After the 12 hours, Teague went into surgery. The doctor came out after about 30 minutes and told Teague’s wife, Robin, that they would have to amputate.

The next morning, another doctor talked to Teague, and recommended the same procedure. Three days later, Teague’s foot was amputated.

“(The doctor) told me that even if they saved it, I wouldn’t be able to walk on it again,” Teague said. “He explained to me that I would get along a lot better on an artificial leg. That’s the route I wanted to go.”

The surgery went well; however, Teague soon developed an infection in the bone where surgeons made the incision. Doctors told him that he could live with it, and Teague didn’t have to take antibiotics.

The infection began to flare up. About six months ago, surgeons cut off about two inches of bone to remove the infected area. The recovery was difficult, but eventually it healed fully, and on Sept. 8, Teague returned to work.

“It feels awesome to be back to work,” he said. “It wasn’t no vacation; I’d rather be working. I don’t like sitting around.”

When Teague had the initial surgery to remove his foot, he was off work for about three months before he returned part time. The most difficult part about that process was enduring the different stages of having a prosthetic leg, he said.

The first prosthetic leg he had was essentially a peg - it didn’t move, and it was not easy to get around. Teague received prosthetics that were more functional as time went on.

“When I first put it on, I thought, ‘Man, this is going to be a horrible life,’” he said. “But after I started getting the better legs, where they move, it was more natural.”

For the first four or five months after the second surgery, Teague couldn’t wear a prosthetic and had to use crutches. He eventually got a new prosthetic from Hanger in Fort Smith. The prosthetic has a Razorback painted on it, with the words “Fear the tusk.”

Teague now works an automated route, where he can mostly stay in the truck while doing trash pickup. He said the leg he has now functions just like a real leg - a little too closely, sometimes.

“It’ll drive you nuts - in the middle of the night, especially. You wake up, it’s itching, and you’re like, ‘There’s nothing there to scratch,’” he said. “It drives you insane.”

Even after five years, Teague has to remind himself visually that there is no foot on his right leg, which makes the itch go away, he said.

Mitchell Parker, division manager at the Sanitation Department and Teague’s supervisor, said Teague’s positive outlook has filtered down his fellow employees, making them all want to do better.

“He’s doing great. He’s come back with a great attitude. The guys were glad to see him come back,” Parker said. “He’s tough as nails; most people would want to give up without a leg, but Doug, he jumped right back in there.”

Although Parker was in another division at the time of Teague’s accident, he knew him and has seen his progress over the years.

“He’s come a long way. Once you lose a limb, you never know what the mind will do,” Parker said. “Doug always stayed strong. He had a lot of support - his wife and his kid and other family, and the DOS (Department of Sanitation).”

Teague has a 27-year-old son, D.J., and a 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter.

Joseph Hopper, superintendent of the Sanitation Department, said in all of Teague’s time at the department since 2002, he hasn’t missed a beat and is one of its hardest workers.

“You never hear a complaint out of Doug, either,” Hopper said. “He’s really an inspiration, or he should be to a lot of people. I know I’ve got a great deal of respect for him. He overcame a great deal of obstacles, and he never gave up.”

Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack spoke with Teague before he returned to work. He described Teague as one of the city’s outstanding employees, and said it’s a priority of the city to make sure its employees are well taken care of - especially when it comes to on-the-job injuries.

“When you have an employee like that, you want to keep them in the work force if at all possible,” Gosack said.

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Information from: Southwest Times Record, https://www.swtimes.com/

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